Posts Tagged ‘decision making’

Design Floors

January 18th, 2012 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Look around you.  And then explore, analyse and establish.  Can you see the design floors?

A design floor is the ultimate and fundamental design flaw.  Individually, design flaws are often simple to identify and, with the right tools, rectify – at least in part.  Perfection is an asymptotic concept; striving for constant improvement will get you closer and closer without ever actually arriving.  Don’t be fooled though, design flaws can be persistent, ingrained and resistant to change.  Flawless is a nonsensical objective but ‘flaw less’ can be attained.

But the design floor might appear impossible to overcome, for it must be achieved through revolution rather than evolution.  Design floors can’t be tinkered with, they must be tossed out!  A design floor is the foundation on which a program, policy or pursuit is based, a foundation that allows certain things and constrains or eliminates other things.

Floors are low, not deep; when you think about it, floors can be viewed as a shield against the deep.  And low is close to the lowest common denominator, low is close to shallow and low is very close to face validity.  Low is about appearance rather than substance, low is about the bottom rather than the deep and the deep is the only way to get to the top.

Foundations can be strong but this needs effort, insight and persistence.  Foundations can be weak and this just requires disinterest and a willingness to tolerate the design floor; despite these weaknesses, things often keep rolling on:

It’s another fundamental choice in experiential learning and behavioural change.  Will you tolerate design floors and pretend that things are as good as they can be?  Or will you actively work to rectify design flaws and realise that things can be better than they are?

 

Adding Up

January 16th, 2012 | Strategic | 0 Comments

The last ‘Slow Down Sunday’ post had a strong numerical theme; ‘tis nobler thought numbers could feature in this post to explore some fundamental themes in experiential learning and behavioural change.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10.

That’s arithmetic – in experiential learning and behavioural change, you’ll use much more sophisticated mathematics without really being aware of it.  And you’ll do this even if you think you’re no good at maths.  In the artificial world of the classroom, you might struggle with maths but, in the real world of learning and changing, you’re a maths wizard!

10 > 1 +2 +3 +4.

That’s synergy, in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Life and learning are not additive pursuits.  When you devote effort to the 1s, 2s 3s and 4s (etc), this experience produces something that is greater, more elegant, more effective and more efficient.  Mindlessly following a recipe is a recipe for ‘disaster’.  Transcend the mechanical.

2 + 2 = 4, NOT 5, 6, 3.5 or any other number suggested by someone else to satisfy specific circumstances.

That’s a reflection of values.  While mathematics is the one absolute and universal discipline, undisciplined or expedient behaviour can be applied to mathematics and, more broadly, the scientific method, to distort the truth.  Thinking, saying or doing ‘calculations’ in which 2 + 2 = 5 is the slipperiest of all slippery slopes.  Stay true and stay truthful, for numbers don’t lie:

Finally, remember that any number (and the distance between any two numbers) equals infinity.  Apparently straightforward tasks possess depth and complex tasks have great depth.  It just doesn’t make sense to think that you can skate over the surface and cope with all the challenges.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10.  But there are infinite ways to get to 10. 

The best way is your way. Find it

 

 

Will This Make Me Happy?

December 19th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Naturally, ’tis nobler is flattered that you might interpret ‘this’ as this post.  But we need to think more generally.

Forecasting backwards is a contradiction in terms – how can you predict the past?  In terms of actions, the past is fixed; in terms of meaning, the past is much more flexible.  Even though you can’t change what happened, you can change its meaning – at the very least, the meaning it has for you – or you can forget that what happened did happen.  What does this have to do with happiness?

Happiness is an awkward, nebulous and (unfortunately) often ephemeral condition.  Predicting what will make us happy would be hard enough but it is made even harder because we mess up the prediction process.  And this means that it is very difficult to learn from past predictions and refine our pursuit of happiness through experiential learning.

How do you assess these lyrics in Kid Cudi’s “Happiness”?  He sings that he is:

“…on the pursuit of happiness and I know everything that shines ain’t always gonna be gold

I’ll be fine once I get it, I’ll be good …..”

It’s true – the pursuit won’t be perfect and you will be fine when you get it.  But the imperfections in the pursuit will often work against you.  A series of studies indicated the nature of the prediction process and its inherent problems – ‘tis nobler will keep the details brief in order to keep you happy.  People are generally poor at predicting the happiness that will come from future events, people are poor at remembering their past predictions and people are poor at controlling the influence of how they feel during and after the event on their past predictions.

As a result, people don’t learn from the experience of past predictions and just accept that their current emotional state is what they were expecting.  In terms of predicting happiness, the present is not always a gift – you change the meaning of the past by sending the present meaning back in time.  You don’t learn anything for you think there is nothing to learn.

It’s hard to learn anything when you change the meaning of the past to conform to the present.  And you do need to learn what makes you happy.

‘tis nobler will conclude today’s post at this point.  Are you happy now?

Juggling Doubts

December 16th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s not that there are doubts about your ability to juggle, although these doubts could very well be justified.

Nor is it that juggling doubts is a method for resolving them.  Doubtless, you will recall that ‘tis nobler has already suggested that ‘double doubting’ is a more potent technique for reducing doubts than juggling could ever be:

Research has suggested that it’s better to question your doubts – be doubtful about them – and, through this internal interrogation, turn the certainty that you cannot into a possibility that you can. Think of this as untying the ‘not’ and discarding it…..Rather than learning in the shadows of self-doubt, realise that these doubts do not reflect certainties but simply possibilities that can be managed and reduced, if not eliminated. Fail to doubt your doubts and they may become self-fulfilling prophecies; doubt your doubts and become self-fulfilling.

You might also recall that ‘tis nobler noted that ‘shouting’ was useless in coping with doubts, as useless as juggling:

Strenuous advocacy can be a reflection of personal uncertainty.  In these circumstances, such ‘shouting’ is designed to reduce doubts – a sort of “I must be right because I am stressing my ‘rightness’ so forcefully.”  Trying to reduce your doubts by committing more strongly to that which you doubt has an even stronger influence on those topics/skills/behaviours that you deem more important.  If it’s more important to you, you’ll ‘shout’ more often and more loudly.

The theme of this post is the doubts that arise from figuratively ‘juggling’ – trying to keep as many things going as possible and being pulled from one to the next in a never-ending struggle that aims to balance competing priorities, problems or personalities.  Of course, actual juggling is itself a skill and, within reason, it is possible to keep the balls in the air:

But most of us struggle with ‘juggling’ for task-related and/or social demands can exceed our capacity and/or capability at times.  It is reasonable to think that, in these ambiguously trying circumstances, the things that we hold most dear or identify with the most become even more important to us.  However, some recent research has produced evidence that such circumstances can make us doubt our ‘mission’ rather than strengthen it.

It’s interesting to wonder whether these ‘juggling’ doubts can themselves be a coping mechanism, a way to refresh and reinvigorate rather than raise the white flag.  ‘tis nobler has written about the relationship between the type of task and the effect of doubt:

Introducing doubts can benefit performance on simple tasks or more complex tasks that have become automated through substantial practice.  There is no clear explanation for this, although motivation plays a central role.  The arrival of doubt could prevent complacency, increase task focus or reduce the likelihood of distractions.  If tasks are not simple or automated, doubt could increase conscious/intentional effort and this type of manual control is resource-intensive;  performance is not enhanced as all effort is directed at just maintaining performance.

Juggling is an everyday feature of life, whether you are juggling tasks, demands, workload, decisions, responsibilities or people.  With balance tantalisingly out of reach, the effort to achieve balance continues on and on.  This can be wearing as this constant struggle can encourage doubts to enter.  Doubtful juggling and juggling doubts combine to drag you down.

Juggle because you can’t avoid it.  Doubt because you can’t avoid it.  Find your own solution because you must.

It’s Extraordinary

December 9th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

It is extraordinary.  If it wasn’t for the plentiful evidence, it would be unbelievable.  And the effect that it has on our behaviour is both extraordinary and extra ordinary.

It is extraordinary that we have a predisposition to focus on the extraordinary.  It’s a twist on the usual ‘forest and trees’ connection; in this case, we can’t see the trees all around us as we focus on the chance that a sasquatch lives in the forest and the danger this would represent.  What makes something extraordinary is precisely why this focus is misplaced.  If it was just a question of misplacement, it would be less of an issue for priorities can always be rearranged.

However, concern does grow when displacement enters the cognitive arena.  Displacement is close to replacement; once the crucial focus on the very common ordinary is replaced by an unwavering focus on the very infrequent extraordinary, the risks we (fail to) perceive and the decisions we make accordingly affect our behaviour adversely.

How many falling branches, snakes, spiders, cliffs or weather conditions do you tend to overlook because you think that the real danger is found in the possible presence of an angry Bigfoot?  It’s extraordinary that the extraordinary is so extraordinarily influential.

This music video for the song ‘Extraordinary’ assembles many extraordinary events and piles them one on top of the other but, as you watch it, you have to remember that ‘extraordinary’ is almost never the problem.  However risky you perceive this behaviour, it should never distort your perception of risk towards the extraordinary:

One of the many benefits of effortful experience is the ability to see the bigger picture.  But operating at the level of the bigger picture should not and does not arrive at the expense of only seeing/looking for the biggest risks.  It’s an interesting contrast – experiential learning allows you to cope with the many ordinary risks automatically while you concurrently focus on the extraordinary risks intentionally.

‘tis nobler hopes that you achieve extraordinary things, perhaps just by doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well.  This will involve some risk management – skilled yet ‘ordinary’ performance that should not be distorted by an intentional focus on the extraordinary.

And yet it remains extraordinary that we continually act on our predisposition to focus on the extraordinary.  In what way will you be extraordinary?

Not Just The Splash

December 7th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

When discussing the concept of risk in the last post, ‘tis nobler pointed out that the common view of risk and risk taking behaviour was invariably negative.  The ‘other side of the risk coin’ sees it as positive, effective and adaptive.  Finding your own way both through and away from risk involves both balance and self-management.

You can’t take a unilateral approach to risk as risk is not unilateral.  In the same way, consequences aren’t unilateral either.  We tend to think of consequences as significant events – the big splash – and ignore the continuing ripples.  It’s not just the splash that creates problems; you also have to cope with the ripples.  In an aggregate sense, constant ripples may pose much greater problems than the occasional splash.  And while ripples always follow a (risk-related) splash, ripples can flow from any disturbance.  You can’t have a splash without ripples but you can have ripples without a splash!

Consequences are to risk as ripples are to life; the ordinary poses many more challenges for us than the extraordinary.  The latest evidence suggests that ‘ripples’ follow cycles – we are more able to cope with ripples at certain times, times that coincide with the higher points of our daily or weekly life pattern.  We don’t call Wednesday ‘hump day’ just because it falls in the middle of the working week; Wednesday tends to be associated with higher levels of negative emotions.  In terms of peaks and troughs, Wednesday is a trough.

Compounding these broader cycles is the more volatile ‘ups and downs’ within them.  And the more you are (or allow yourself to be) buffeted by this shorter term volatility, the more likely it is that ripples will continue well beyond the point where others have moved on.  If you have an experience that you can’t forget, you’ll be affected by the hangover of ripples for some time:

It’s not just avoidance of the splash, or minimising its harm should it occur, that represents the self-management challenge.  The pattern of ripples, the volatility of ripples within that pattern and the flow-on effects of past ripples all combine to produce greater challenges than the occasional splash.

In experiential learning and behavioural change, you will make a much bigger splash by effectively and efficiently managing the many smaller ripples.

An Upside To Risk

December 5th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Is ‘absolutely’ fabulous?  According to The Pet Shop Boys, it is:

There are many ways in which ‘absolute’ is anything but fabulous.  As a novice, you might have had absolute faith in absolute rules – this is what people are meant to do – and absolute confidence in your ability to follow those rules.  And then you realise that the real world is much messier; rules are replaced by skills and normative standards (the spirit) replace the ‘letter of the law’.  Absolute often becomes relative, with a ‘black and white’ view replaced by the colours of the rainbow.  Learning and changing becomes matters for continual and dynamic balancing, not adherence to blinkered absolutes.

Think of the words usually associated with risk taking or risk takers.  These words are probably, and overwhelmingly, negative – stupid, senseless, crazy, immature, thoughtless, idiotic or insane.  Risk takers are commonly seen as idiots.  Of course, there is an element of truth in these descriptions, particularly when risks are simply taken without being managed.  You could be excused for having an absolute position on risk taking in daily pursuits – it’s bad and always to be avoided.  Wouldn’t life be absolutely fabulous without risks and risk taking?

The answer is ‘No’, for you can’t adopt an absolute position on risk taking.  It can be relatively dangerous (with ‘danger’ being defined in many different ways) but rarely in day to day life is it absolutely wrong.  Think of the other side of the risk taking ‘coin’ – have you ever heard of risk taking being described as effective, positive or adaptive?  For managed risk taking can and should fit these alternative descriptions.

Experiential learning and behavioural change are traditionally viewed as methods to reduce or eliminate risks.  In contrast, ‘tis nobler conceives of experiential learning and behavioural change as methods to better enable self-management of risk, regardless of the type or level of risk.

Risk taking for the sake of taking risks is either unproductive or destructive.  Risk taking for the sake of learning and/or change can be managed.  It is essential to remember the big difference:

There is a big difference between the (self-) management of risk and risky behaviour.  Risky behaviour occurs when you pretend risk is absent, when you underestimate risk, when you are unaware of the consequences of risk, when you don’t reckon it is a problem for you.

Managing risk successfully can be exhilarating, can be fantastic, and can really make you come alive.  But you don’t manage risk just by saying that you’re going to be careful or you’re going to pay attention.  Successful management of risk involves effort; effortful practice, effortful preparation, effortful planning and real engagement, being ‘switched on’ rather than disconnected, being aware rather than oblivious.  Even so, managing risk isn’t perfect and there will be consequences. Serious consequences – but you strive actively to minimise the chances of coming unstuck.

Striking the right risk taking balance as your learning journey unfolds is crucial – too little is boring and too much is, well, you know what ‘too much’ is.  And ‘little and ‘too much’ are always relative terms, relative to you and the situation.

Managing risk by striking the right and relative balance can be absolutely fabulous!

The End Of Fooling

December 2nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

That must be good news, surely – the end of fooling.  However, where fooling ends is not necessarily the end of fooling.

In a 1939 radio address, President Franklin D Roosevelt uttered these words:

Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.

This is undoubtedly true in principle.  A fiction does not become a fact simply through the process of being repeated.  But the evidence indicates that it is not always true in practice, particularly where an individual and management of their own behaviour is concerned.

Unless we are vigilant, monitoring and managing our behaviour, the ‘lies’ we employ can and do transform into our ‘truths’.  Fooling ends because we no longer consider ourselves to be fooling and that is, perhaps, the ultimate foolishness.  The Doobie Brothers acknowledged this in their – What A Fool Believes – when they sang that ‘what a fool believes, he see’:

Fooling can end when we ‘see the light’.  However, fooling can also end when we hide the light so deeply that we forget that this particular light exists, replacing it with the false illumination produced by our deceptive behaviour.

The approach known as bounded rationality does not mean that our rationality is applied in leaps and bounds; it means that our rationality can be constrained.  Our rationality is not bound (in the sense of ‘heading for’) the right reason or understanding.  Rather, it is bound (in the sense of ‘tied up’) to just a slice of the situation we find ourselves in.  Within this situational slice, it is both easy and tempting to distort things to suit your needs and then consider this distortion as truth.  Are lies the new honesty?

What a fool believes, he sees.  If you see it often enough, what you see eventually becomes true for you.  The end of fooling is determined by what you remember and what you forget.  Will you remember to not believe your own lies or will you forget that your own lies are (and will always remain) lies?  Do you repeatedly transform your own lies into truths?

Fooling Permits

November 30th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Deception, whether you apply it to yourself or you adopt it in your behaviour towards others, washes through and throughout daily life.  It is such a common occurrence that ‘tis nobler wonders whether the deception process requires regulation, perhaps through the issuing of fooling permits.  With such a permit, fooling yourself or others would be permitted under certain conditions.  Would you queue for a licence to fool?

Of course you wouldn’t – it’s a foolish idea.  But there are serious issues involved if you view ‘permits’ in the tile of this post as a verb and not a noun.

What does fooling permit?  The short answer is that fooling permits foolishness.  A display of ‘fooling’ produces (negative) consequences beyond the display itself – a ‘fooling’ incident’ can degenerate into a foolish game:

Let’s use the evidence from a recent study to illustrate how ‘fooling’ can lead to foolishness.  For once, ‘tis nobler doesn’t need to go beyond the report’s heading to make the point (emphasis added):

Ironic Effects of Dietary Supplementation

Illusory Invulnerability Created by Taking Dietary Supplements Licenses Health-Risk Behaviors

People who took what they thought were dietary supplements expressed an intention to do less exercise, a greater intention to pursue pleasurable activities and made poorer food choices than control subjects.  The explanatory mechanism was the perceived (but illusory) invulnerability bestowed by the supplements.

Relative to the benefits of a balanced diet, there is always the chance of some ‘fooling’ to support supplements.  But the most worrying aspect of this study is that this ‘fooling’ behaviour promoted foolish behaviour; it’s as though supplements can be seen as validating an unbalanced diet and an unbalanced lifestyle.

Within the borders of the ‘fooling’, (self-) deception can be unhelpful through to upsetting and destructive.  However, ‘fooling’ need not stay within its borders and this is how the original (self-) deception creates more problems.

The question remains – who are you fooling?  Following on from this question, ‘tis nobler can now add – are you being foolish?  ‘Fooling’ does not always produce ‘foolish’ but it may be that ‘foolish’ is always preceded by fooling.  It would be foolish to ignore the effects of ‘fooling’ and it would be foolish to ignore that ‘fooling’ is a cause of foolishness.

Do foolish games come from ‘fooling’ games?

Who Are You Fooling?

November 28th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s not so much a foolish week at ‘tis nobler this week as a fooling week.  Think of this week’s theme then as ‘tisfoolery’.  The first post raises an interesting ‘chicken and egg’ question; sometimes, cause and effect does not always operate in the direction it appears to.  Untangling cause from effect, effect from cause and effect as cause of a subsequent effect is a constant challenge, especially when these causal relationships are accompanied by a host of correlates that muddy the water. Correlates rarely clarify, and never cause.

And carousels only circle, but whether they circle as a cause, effect or correlate is a matter of some conjecture for your experience of them can be ‘deceptive’:

The real point for presenting this video was to illustrate the circular nature of deception and the many other elements that swirl around this process.  An effect can be described but this description is usually limited to the effect, a linear process that begins with ‘this happened’ and ends with ‘this is what happened’.  And the line continues.

An effect can be explained and this explanation transcends the effect, a non-linear process that begins with ‘this happened’ and ends with ‘this is what happened, this is why it happened and this is what it means’.  And the behavioural ‘space’ is unpacked and re-packed.

But much of what we do falls between description and explanation for the former is too glib and the latter requires too much effort.  Welcome to the land of the pretend explanation, a land overrun by justifications, rationalisations, opinions, bias, strategies and stratagems.  In this land, the aim is to prevail rather than understand.

And it is here where deceit and deception can run rampant.

At some times, we deceive others and then believe our deceit to be true.  At other times, we deceive ourselves in order to better deceive others.  And then we deceive ourselves yet ignore the consequences of our self-deception, or we ‘pretend explain’ these consequences by compounding self-deception.  There is compelling evidence that (self-) deception can be a powerful influence on our own behaviour and the ways in which we interact with others.

But it’s not really a question of causes and effects, of lines and directions. It’s a question of circles.

It’s worth remembering that there’s a lot of (self-) deception going around.  Who are you fooling?

Would I Lie To You?

November 25th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

One aim of experiential learning is to make sense of the world around you.  Armed with this understanding, you are better able to cope with the ‘usually usual’ and its variations.  Sense comprises a number of dimensions – good/bad, valid/invalid, possible/impossible, right/wrong, expected/unexpected and many more.

It is not application of these polar extremes within a given situation that enables you to manage effectively but your ability, developed through extensive experience, to discern and act on all of the subtleties that may appear between them.  Being able to appreciate the rich detail between these poles, the many shades of grey rather than just black and white, is an indicator of expertise.

Today’s post focuses on another dimension – true/untrue.  There is self deception, something that ‘tis nobler has written about here and here; let’s look at social deception in this post.  There are various guides to language, both verbal and body, that present indicators of deception.  These indicators are similar to the ‘poles’ of sense, perhaps helpful at a general level but rarely relevant at the specific level.  Deception interacts with intention to make the implausible plausible and the unreasonable reasonable.  This is absolutely true – if you don’t believe ‘tis nobler, believe The Eurythmics:

Do people lie to you?  Of course they do, for communication is not restricted to a neutral process of information transmission.  There are no ‘one size fits all situations’ recipes – life is not that neat and predictable.  There is, however, some evidence-based guidance that is summarised below; be warned, some of this guidance is drawn from the literature and some of it is concocted.  How and why will you establish the difference for therein lies the real value in this message?

Those seeking to deceive:

Say as little as possible to avoid tripping up.  Or do they hide their deception by speaking a lot?

Justify what they are saying while saying it.  Or do they fail to provide a justification?

Pay close attention to your reactions as they speak.  Or do they pay little attention to the reception of their story?

Will speak faster as the story unfolds. Or do they speak slower to make sure they remain consistent?

The statements are correct.  Or are the questions correct?  Perhaps some statements and some questions are true.  Confronting the need to discern truth from untruth is an ongoing challenge as part of your mission to make sense of the world.  It is unlikely you will encounter the logical absurdity of the Liar’s Paradox; it is much more likely that you will need to resolve issues on a relative basis.

And in a relative, probabilistic and imperfect world, the one thing you can always apply to this task is effort.  Would ‘tis nobler lie to you?

Standard Bearers

November 18th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The past two posts have highlighted the potential pitfalls of anonymity – anonymity breeds aberration and as perceived anonymity increases, so does the level of aberration.  Are increasing numbers directly and immutably linked to decreasing standards?  Do groups ditch their (shared) standards rather than retain them?

When you shift from exactly like you to someone like you (who seems to be like everybody else due to the situation being confronted), are you and all of the ‘someones’ like you destined to spiral downwards?  It’s reasonable to think that groups dominate the individual – after all, we talk about being ‘caught up in the moment’ or of being ‘lost in the crowd’.

Recent events have shown how (group) behaviour can deteriorate rapidly but this focus can blind us to the presence and effect of standard bearers, those that can influence groups in constructive ways.

It is possible for a (large) group to remain partly a group and partly a group of individuals.  And therein might exist the key to unleash the positive potential that all groups possess, for individual differences can influence and resist what might otherwise be a mob mentality.  Whether you are alone or in the midst of many others, it is worth remembering the essential message in this song by Bon Jovi:

We weren’t born to follow

Come on and get up off your knees

When life is a bitter pill to swallow

You gotta hold on to what you believe

Choice is ever present; in the middle of a crowd, you can still choose to be yourself or you can choose to ‘follow’ someone like you.  ‘Like you’ refers to standards and, for a range of reasons, someone like you could be the standard bearer you need.  Of course, you can ‘choose’ to follow someone that is nothing like you – groups can do that to you.

Will you bear witness to the standards you bear by being a standard bearer should the need arise?  Walking together in the same direction is not following; rather, it is being led by your shared and positive standards.  Walking away from these standards does involve following – following blindly.  We weren’t born to follow in this way.

Exactly Like You

November 16th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Who is exactly like you?  While a range of criteria could be used to answer this question, let’s just use one – standards.

As individuals, we have standards.  Some of these standards are personal, others are broadly normative and yet others are societal.  In descending order of importance (from the personal to the societal), these standards help to define us.

As members of a small group, we have standards.  Some of these standards remain personal, others reflect specific group norms.  Broadly normative and societal standards also remain in place.

As members of a larger group, we have standards.  Some of these standards reflect specific group norms, while broadly normative and societal standards remain in place.  Did you notice the change?

In the previous post, the relationship between anonymity and aberration was explored in general terms – with anonymity comes aberration.  But, as groups get larger, our personal standards recede further and further into the distance.  Does this indicate that there are degrees of anonymity?  Is it possible for the personal to disappear completely within the impersonal group?  The evidence supports the notion of disappearance.

Anonymity breeds aberration and the more anonymous you believe you are, the more aberrant your behaviour becomes.  In large groups, you can scan the sea of faces trying to find someone like you:

And realise, perhaps ashamedly, that they are all like you and you are like all of them.  Situations overwhelm standards and inhibitions disappear as your personal standards depart.  Due to the situation and the behaviour of others, you become someone like you and not someone exactly like you.

What does it take to be exactly like you across situations and within groups?  Only you can answer that question.  It is essential to realise, though, that self management doesn’t cease simply because you’re with others!

Anonymously Aberrant

November 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The relationships between an individual and a group can be many and varied.  For a start, we all believe that individuals are ‘better’ than groups:

When I compare myself to a group, I always win.  When you compare yourself to a group, you win.  When each member of the group compares themselves to the rest, the individual usually comes out in front.  On average, we are all above-average.  However, it may be that this effect doesn’t reflect the bias of the rater; rather, it reflects a bias towards individuals at the expense of the group.  So, it’s not that I think I am better, it’s that I think groups are worse.

At the same time, perceived (not actual) group membership can exert a powerful influence on our behaviour, both positive or negative:

There is evidence that, if I think you are similar to me and you are behaving poorly, I am more likely to behave poorly.

And yet we like to think that we retain our individuality within groups – we remain a face within a sea of faces rather than faceless and anonymous.  Does being ‘lost in a crowd’ sometimes equate to losing ourselves?  The evidence indicates the answer to this question is a clear ‘Yes’ for, as part of a group, our individual identities blur or vanish:

With the anonymity afforded to individuals by a group, they say and do things that are an aberration.  Conversely, behavioural control can often be imposed externally through invigilation – if we think or know we are both known and being watched, we behave differently and we behave better.  Of course, external control is neither sustainable nor desirable for the same sorts of reasons that external motivation also eventually falters.  By definition, the responsibility for self management cannot be delegated to outsiders.

In the largest of crowds, the darkest of nights and the most chaotic of situations, you are never completely anonymous.  There is always one person who knows exactly who you are with, where you are and what you are doing.  Do you know who this person is?

It is impossible for you to ‘lose yourself in the crowd’ for you are never faceless to yourself, just to others.  It is thus impossible to use ‘being lost in the crowd’ as an excuse for your behaviour.  Under supervision or beyond supervision are artificial distinctions in learning and behavioural change – should the presence or absence of supervision determine how you behave?

Be yourself when you are by yourself. Be yourself when you are with others.

A Balancing Act

November 9th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s not fair.  It’s not right.  It’s not valid.   It’s definitely not balanced and, while it is not an act, it influences many of our actions.  Whichever way you look at it, where ‘it’ is the ways you think about yourself and others, the way of looking at it is unequal.  Where does this fundamental problem come from?  Who could be responsible for this inequality? As ‘tis nobler asks these questions, the answer is clear – ‘tis nobler.

Of course, if you are asking the very same questions, the answer is equally clear – you.  Along with wide shut (see previous post), everyone is also unbalanced:

I know myself better than you know yourself.

I know you better than you know me.

My ‘group’ knows your ‘group’ better than your ‘group’ knows my ‘group’.

Your actions ‘speak louder’ (say more about you) than my actions (say about me).

My thoughts ‘speak louder’ (are more consistent with who I am) than your (less consistent) thoughts.

And yet this lack of balance is generally ignored.  Indeed, the suggestion that ‘you know me better than I know myself’ is be a popular theme in literature and music:

But this contention is not supported by the evidence.  The origins of ‘Know Thyself’ are somewhat murky and the application of this saying to daily life is equally problematic.  We think others know us as an open book but our senses and thinking can be ‘wide shut’ and we think we know others much more than they know us because we lack balance.  How can we know ourselves when our perspective is so unbalanced?

Insight can be a marvellous quality but it (and other forms of thinking) can be distorted in many ways.  When you use insight, what is literally and figuratively in sight?  Can you think through these issues in a balanced way?

Find your own way through and around these distortions – it’s a balancing act!

Beneath And Beyond Feeling

November 4th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler wants to show you a painting.  More accurately, ‘tis nobler wants to show you a painting of a painting.  To be fully truthful, it’s a painting of a painting of a painting.  No, that’s not quite right; it’s a painting of a painting of a painting of a painting.  Still not there, but it’s time to change direction otherwise we’d continue to follow the paintings of paintings deeper and deeper.

And, as you explore ever deeper, you realise that this is just like experiential learning and behavioural change; whatever way you look at it, you should always try to look beneath and beyond the immediate.  The ‘painting’ may be nice but what can be found beneath and beyond the immediate ‘painting’ represents true value and perhaps your true values.

Beneath and beyond don’t just shape what you do, they can also shape how you feel about it.  According to some recent research, beneath and beyond feelings can reach the surface without you being aware of what lies beneath and beyond.  When ‘tis nobler stresses the core principle:

What you do tells me more about the situation than it does about who you are,

it is important to remember that there are situations beneath and beyond the immediate situation being observed.  Why are you doing that?  Why are you feeling like that?  Answers to these questions may be partly anchored in the immediate but they are also always likely to reflect goals, attitudes and values beneath and beyond the immediate.

Beneath and beyond are measures of depth and distance that indicate where valid and enduring answers may be found.  Where will you find your whys?  Will you always find it in the obvious and immediate or will you explore beneath and beyond?

Bobbing Cork, Sailing Craft

November 2nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

If ‘tis nobler said that this post was ‘hicoec’, would you realise that it is about choice (or, less cryptically, choice about)?  Perhaps this unusual opening indicates that the spelling of choice is adaptive – that is, it can be changed to adapt to a different situation.  And in this case, the different situation involved a need to be cryptic.

Exercising choice is inherently adaptive in a way that is much deeper and much more important than you might realise.  If you stay on the surface, it is easy to be dismissive of your role in making choices, something which happens many times every day.  After all, many of these choices are straightforward, many of them don’t need a second thought (in fact, many of them don’t even need a (conscious) first thought).  These choices are made to preserve patterns that provide the foundation for skilled performance (and patterns can be known as mental models, schema, mental representations etc).

The methods we use to make our choices are subject to many distortions and biases and yet we strive to avoid losses while trying to gain some benefits.  Most of the time, we’re OK at this (with OK being some distance from ‘good’); some of the time, though, we’re absolutely hopeless.  Again, if you stay on the surface, you can just look at the rewards within a given choice and then bounce from choice to choice.  This sort of behaviour could be considered specifically adaptive and generally positive (adaptive behaviour is designed to make things better).

But choices provide the opportunity to go deeper than this, should we so choose!  It is possible to transcend the rewards within our choices and reap the rewards that exist beyond specific choices, rewards that are found in the act rather than the outcome of choosing.  A bird in the hand might be worth two in the bush but a bird in the hand will always be worth less than the three birds you can obtain by making the effort.

Each choice gives you the opportunity to put your personal stamp on things, to make real that which is important to you.  Choice is about choosing – the surface view – and choice is about control – the deeper view.  Choice as control goes to the heart of self management and is fundamentally adaptive.  The previous post ended with these words:

You have the power to choose to stop. You have the power to choose to change.

And now you should realise that you also have the power to control through choosing.  What you actually do is up to you, for you are free to decide:

A bobbing cork at the mercy of the waves and the wind or a sailing craft pursuing the course established by you as captain – you do have the choice.  Find your own way to choose and control.

You Are Free To Stop

October 31st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s an open secret that an open secret is an oxymoron.  ‘tis nobler is unsure whether this old news came from military intelligence or the Italian government for there has been a deafening silence.  There are contradictory views on the involvement of paradoxes and contradictions in oxymorons; actually paradoxes lead to contradictions so it might be a case that everything ‘tis nobler writes is false.  ‘tis nobler wonders whether you are able to exclude that last assertion from your conclusion; if you cannot do this, it’s rather paradoxical.

Perhaps it’s like concluding that you are not free to do but (and say this in your best Yoda voice) you are free to do not.  It would be more realistic if you said ‘free you are to do not’.

Are you free to do not?  So it would seem from the evidence (although it is restricted to very simple experimental tasks).  This is a very big topic – one that will generate much discussion between neuroscientists, psychologists and philosophers for it is fraught with methodological  and conceptual issues – but let’s pick out the very essence of it as it reinforces the fundamental importance of self management.

One fundamental advantage of experiential learning is the shift from conscious or intentional processing of information to subconscious and unintentional (but NOT unintended) operation.  There are many, many examples that you could draw on from personal experience in which you are doing things in a sensible, co-ordinated, effective and efficient manner without being fully aware of them – the most ubiquitous example could be driving a car, much of which takes place ‘in the background’ and occasionally from the backseat!  Are you exercising free will in these instances?

This may or may not be different from the chain of events that underpin specific and isolated choices, for what affects these discrete choices may still be as complex as any skilled behaviour.  Being unaware of ‘what and why’ prior to the conscious act may have little to do with free will and more to do with learned, validated and elegant patterns.  Who knows?

But, regardless of the precise mechanism(s), it appears possible to stop this automatic process before the (non-conscious) action is implemented.  While the status of a ‘go motion’ remains debatable, a ‘stop motion’ exists.  Stop motion is a paradox and yet it is exceedingly clever.  It relies on compressing a large number of very subtle changes to produce a fluid pattern, which is not that far away from the goals of experiential learning:

Even on autopilot and not consciously aware of what you are doing, you retain the capacity to stop and change.  You should be aware that you have choices, even when you are unaware of their existence.

You have the power to choose to stop.  You have the power to choose to change.  What will you choose to do?

Forward Is Not Straightforward

October 28th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

We realise from the last post that around is not forward.  Around is around, and around is anything but forward.  Around can be a backward step in many ways, and not one of those ways is forward.

Trying to unpack ‘forward is not straightforward’ can also lead us in many directions.  One of the main reasons why forward is not straightforward is that going around is comfortable and non-threatening.  How do you break away from going around (in circles) in order to move forward?

It’s interesting that the last thing to do is often the first thing done – reduce the challenge and complexity involved in breaking away to simple catchcries and empty slogans.  If ‘just do it’ enabled people to ‘just do it’, then ‘it’ would always get done.  It’s just not that easy.  There is some general guidance from research studies that might make moving forward more straightforward (and remember, be positive, think comparative).

To move forward rather than around, realise firstly that everything is more important than it may appear, for the opportunity to move forward is ever present.  This does not mean that everything is crucial or critical; neither does it mean that you must never miss an opportunity for you will miss many, many opportunities.  But if you move forward more often because you understand that things are more important than they seem, it’s a step in the right direction!  And these steps form a pattern, and we all know how important patterns are to learning and behavioural change.

At the tipping point for moving forward, implement rather than create.  Thinking ‘on your feet’ might be all you need to decide that it’s safer to go around rather than forward.  Make symbolic changes as a means to an end; many think that symbolic change is an end in its own right for it is, after all, a change.  Real change, demonstrated by moving forward, can be made more likely by making small changes that symbolise a commitment to change.

Don’t focus on the process and ignore the occasional stumble; remember and reinforce the reason for moving forward.  You can avoid the process and the stumbles by going around but you also avoid the reason for breaking away from just going around at the same time.  Regardless of how you do it, the principle underpinning all of these strategies is a simple one:

Don’t hold back, just push things forward!

Forward does not necessarily mean straight so only you can decide whether ‘crooked’ is forward or around.  Straight or ‘crooked’, though, forward is never straightforward.  Can you get your head around that?

One Or More Changes

October 24th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘One or more’ changes many things.  Or one or more changes change many things.

When things change from one to more than one, things can get messy.  Then again, when things change from one to more than one, things can get highly focused, more efficient and very effective.  Was it the opening line to that less-known novel, The Tale of Two Entities’, that stated ‘’twas the best of outcomes, ‘twas the worst of outcomes’?

When you strive for the greatest good – Summum Bonum – ‘one or more’ changes many things, not least of which is perspective.  What do you do differently if you are learning or changing by yourself compared to doing the same things with others?  Is your answer ‘many things’?

Game theory demonstrates that individuals need to shift their focus away personal gain if their outcomes move from independent of others to interdependent.  They need to shift their focus from competition to cooperation for, if everyone tries to win, ultimately everyone loses.  Cooperation makes even more sense when you take into account how much worse people perceive losses relative to gains.

If you are not ‘flying solo’, you optimise your returns when you cooperate for win/win outcomes become possible.  Compete with yourself and cooperate with others.  ‘Flying solo’ allows you to be selfish – just concerned with yourself – while ‘flying in formation’ requires you to become less selfish.

Some recent research has suggested that this shift can go even further in certain conditions.  Rather than just being less selfish, individuals can behave selflessly to ensure group aims are achieved.  They sacrifice more of their personal entitlement when their group is competing with others – a classic example of putting the team before themselves – and trying to achieve the very best results.  With all (competing) groups trying to achieve the very best result possible, everybody wins and wins more than they otherwise would!

Within your groups, it can be a case of ‘war’ or it can be a case of ‘no more trouble’:

How you do decide between selfish, less selfish and selfless?  Depending on the circumstances, each of these can produce positive returns.  Applied inappropriately, however, everybody might lose.

You cannot win all the time.  You shouldn’t try to win all the time.  And sometimes you shouldn’t try to win at all.  Being your best is always available (and need not involve ‘winning’) while, for most of us, trying to be the best is the best way to fail.